OREANDA-NEWS. Careers have followed the same general format for generations: You get an education, land a job, try to move up the corporate hierarchy, and eventually retire. However, things are about to change, and both individuals and companies will be significantly impacted.

Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott recently wrote a piece in Harvard Business Review that outlined some critical implications of increasing life expectancy. As our life spans increase, so does the time we need to sustain ourselves financially. The average age of retirement in the United States used to be 60 years old just 10 years ago. But today, Americans expect to retire after turning 66 – and this number will likely go even higher in years to come.

Of all babies born in 2007 in the United States, 50% are expected to live 104 years or longer. Many of them will not be able to financially sustain themselves for 38 years after leaving the workforce at age 66. Either we need to work longer to save up for that complete retirement most people strive to achieve, or we must redesign the way we live our lives.

While not an easy fix by any means, Gratton and Scott argue for a transformation of our current system into what they call a multistage life where multiple careers, different educations, sabbaticals, and physical locations can succeed each other over and over. With this approach, people can build competencies that are relevant at each given time in their life while allowing the flexibility of adapting to changing interests and physical capabilities along their lifespan. The primary incentive for this model is not motivated by a definitive retirement, but rather a lifelong ambition and willingness to do something productive and interesting.

The Future of Work is Changing Society

The implications of such a shift in our workforce are significant and clearly not something that could be implemented overnight. There is, however, good reason to consider various parts of such a proposal in the context of the general evolution of the workforce and the impact of the digital economy.

The future of work is primarily driven by the rise of the millennials and Generation Z and their desire for high workplace engagement, the ability to pursue personal passions, and the opportunity to make a difference for the greater society. The technological pace driving the rise of the digital worker – the changes we see affecting continuing education, collaboration, instant corporate decision-making, and work itself – allows these generations to take a more personal approach to career planning and influences their day-to-day tasks.

The global gig economy of independent workers and short-term engagements is further helping this trend by enabling people to shape their careers by taking on short-term or part-time jobs that are compatible with their personal preferences.